Local artist Victor Ekpuk’s Graphic Installation, Inspired by Ancient Nigerian Script, Transforms Phillips Collection Main Visitor Entrance

By Editorial Team on July 19, 2021

Titled State of the Union: Things have fallen apart, can the center still hold?, the installation is made of adhesive vinyl that covers the museum’s vestibule and is one of three commissions, all by DC-based artists, that celebrate the Phillips’s 100th anniversary this year.

Victor Ekpuk with his artwork State of the Union: Things have fallen apart, can the center still hold?, Photo by Robin Bell.

Victor Ekpuk is internationally renowned for his paintings, drawings, and sculptures, which reimagine the ancient Nigerian communication system, Nsibidi, to create his own unique language of abstraction. Ekpuk draws from African and global contemporary art discourse to explore the human condition. In recent years, Ekpuk has focused on large-scale murals, installations, and public art projects, including a 30 x 18-foot mural for the North Carolina Museum of Art in 2017, and a 20-foot metal sculpture Hope and Dream Under Glory housed at Boone Elementary School in Southeast DC in 2019.

Ekpuk holds a BFA from Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. His awards include a Smithsonian Fellowship. His work has been featured in national and international exhibitions, including Dakar Biennial, Senegal; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC; Somerset House, London; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; and the 12th Havana Biennial, Havana, Cuba. Ekpuk’s work is included in numerous collections including the Bank ABC International Headquarters in the Kingdom of Bahrain; Hood Museum, Hanover, New Hampshire; Newark Museum of Art, New Jersey; and in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, The World Bank, United States Art in Embassies Art Collection, and Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

Ekpuk holds a BFA from Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. His awards include a Smithsonian Fellowship. His work has been featured in national and international exhibitions, including Dakar Biennial, Senegal; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC; Somerset House, London; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; and the 12th Havana Biennial, Havana, Cuba. Ekpuk’s work is included in numerous collections including the Bank ABC International Headquarters in the Kingdom of Bahrain; Hood Museum, Hanover, New Hampshire; Newark Museum of Art, New Jersey; and in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, The World Bank, United States Art in Embassies Art Collection, and Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

“In the vestibule of The Phillips Collection, I want to welcome visitors to a sense of a spiritual sacred space through an immersive experience. Through my ‘script’ drawings, the distinction between writing and visual art, legibility and illegibility are all dissolved. This process encourages viewers to experience my work in a holistic manner, allowing the abstraction rooted in ancestral knowledge and indigenous power symbols to build intuitive meaning. In the vestibule, I wish to create a collective experience across cultures and space to connect the ancient past and the contemporary moment,” Ekpuk says.

The Phillips Collection’s Centennial Artist Commissions are supported generously by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Frauke de Looper Trust, and the Sherman Fairchild Foundation.

(Source: Phillips Collection press release)